Manhattan’s District Attorney has dropped one of six criminal charges against Harvey Weinstein after new evidence emerged challenging the account of one of his three accusers.
During a court hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday, Judge James Burke granted the defense request to dismiss the count related to allegations by Lucia Evans. The aspiring actor first told her story to the New Yorker last October, saying Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a daytime meeting at his Tribeca office in 2004.
According to a letter made public after Thursday’s hearing, Evans is alleged to have offered conflicting accounts about her encounter with Weinstein. The lead detective on the case, identified by Weinstein’s attorney as Nicholas DiGaudio, is also accused of failing to inform prosecutors of a witness account that cast doubt on Evans’ claims.
According to the letter, the witness told police that Evans had told her that she had voluntarily performed oral sex on Weinstein. The witness also said she was present at a Manhattan bar when Weinstein first encountered Evans. She said that Weinstein offered to pay both women if they would expose their breasts. The witness said she refused, but that Evans later told her she had exposed her breasts to Weinstein in a hallway of the restaurant. Evans disputed the witness’s account in an interview with prosecutors, denying that she was ever asked to expose her breasts to Weinstein. She also could not recall relating the story about what happened in Weinstein’s office to the witness.
Prosecutors also recently obtained a draft email written by Evans to her fiance in 2015. According to the letter, the email contained a version of the encounter that is at odds with the version she had told law enforcement.
Prosecutors did not challenge the defense motion to dismiss the Evans count. Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon emphasized that the loss of Evans did not alter the fundamentals of the case and the prosecution’s contention that Weinstein is guilty of “predatory sexual assault” involving multiple victims.
“We are moving full-steam ahead,” Illuzi-Orbon told the judge. She said the investigation into Weinstein’s actions continues as the D.A.’s office works to determine if additional charges can be brought against Weinstein.
An attorney for Evans, Carrie Goldberg, issued a statement Thursday blasting D.A. Cyrus Vance for agreeing to drop the charge.
“The prosecutor’s decision to abandon my client, Lucia Evans, does not invalidate the truth of her claims,” Goldberg said. “It does speak to a system that needs to be reformed.”
Goldberg said that Evans’ account of the event has been consistent, and said the case had been mishandled due to a “feud” between the D.A.’s office and the NYPD.
“Instead of rising to the challenges of their mistakes, the DA jumped ship at the first opportunity,” she said. “Vance has done this before, when powerful men have been accused of sex crimes, including Weinstein himself; throwing cooperative crime victims under the bus. It raises serious questions of bias.”
Defense attorney Ben Brafman blasted DiGaudio’s conduct, and argued it could be grounds for a total dismissal. According to the letter, the witness told prosecutors that DiGaudio had discouraged her from sharing her account, saying “less is more” and advising her that she had no obligation to cooperate. DiGaudio denied making those statements, but acknowledged that he had failed to share the witness’s account with the D.A.’s office. In a statement, Brafman accused DiGaudio of “serious misconduct in keeping his knowledge of Ms. Evans’ lies to himself.”
He also raised the allegation of Evans having committed perjury in her testimony to the grand jury that led to Weinstein’s indictment in May. He also slammed the New Yorker for using Evans as a key source in its coverage of the tidal wave of sexual assault allegations against the former film titan.
“It appears to me some of the most vocal, outspoken critics of Mr. Weinstein who have put their complaints into the media were never properly vetted,” Brafman said.
The witness was first interviewed by a New Yorker fact checker last year, but she did not contradict Evans’ account to the magazine. Instead, she said only that “something inappropriate happened,” according to the letter.
The New Yorker defended its reporting in a statement issued after the hearing. “We stand by our reporting and fact-checking process, which was assiduous and thorough. Any assertion by lawyers for Harvey Weinstein that The New Yorker had information that contradicted Lucia Evans’s account is patently incorrect,” a spokeswoman for the magazine said.
Brafman also took aim at the five other remaining counts against Weinstein, as alleged by former production assistant Mimi Haleyi and an unnamed woman accusing Weinstein of rape in 2013. Weinstein has steadfastly maintained that the sexual encounters were consensual.
“We will be able to demonstrate he did not commit any of the other crimes,” Brafman said.
The judge set the next hearing in the case for Dec. 20. Defense attorneys have until Nov. 2 to file additional motions to dismiss.
Weinstein was stone-faced as he walked haltingly into the courtroom for the hearing. Dressed in a dark suit, the former showman known for his larger than life personality did not turn his eyes to the packed rows of reporters in attendance to cover the proceedings.
As he left the courtroom, Weinstein whispered to his attorney and did glance at the crowd that included the New York Times’ Jodi Kantor, who co-wrote the first damning report in October 2017 about Weinstein’s alleged history of sexual assaults, and famed writer Ken Auletta. Both journalists are working on books about Weinstein’s stunning downfall.